Local view: Thriving society requires education in art, culture
As I write this there is one more performance left to go of the Duluth Playhouse’s production of “Les Misérables.” The first three performances were nothing less than jaw-droppingly awesome. The collaboration between the Playhouse, Duluth Ballet and Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra proved a success.
This collaboration showed the incredible talent that resides in the Twin Ports area.
It also showed the power of the performing arts.
As a professional musician, I fully believe that in order to have a thriving society there must be a connection to the arts and culture. Culture is what separates the human race from the animal kingdom.
For a few nights I sat in the pit, playing the score to “Les Misérables” and enjoying the singing and acting happening only a few feet from me onstage. I couldn’t see much of it, but I could hear it all. And I could hear the emotional outbursts of applause from the audience after Fantine sang “I Dreamed a Dream,” Eponine’s “On My Own,” Javert’s “Stars” and Valjean’s “Bring Him Home.” The quiet, tearful pause immediately after Marius sang the gut-
wrenching “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” or the excitingly moving chorus song “Do You Hear the People Sing” that makes you want to jump up and join in definitely should show us all that music and the performing arts are a very powerful thing in our lives.
With all this great talent and the emotional responses we have after witnessing it, one might think Duluth has a vibrant and exciting arts program in its schools. Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the case. I get concerned when I read in the newspaper that the School Board wants to make more cuts in the arts programs. It’s interesting to hear the lip service given to making sure we have a well-rounded education for our students — but we don’t have the money for this or that, and cuts must be made.
I decided when I was 15 years old I wanted to be a musician. I was extremely fortunate to grow up in a time and town (Waseca, Minn.) that valued all aspects of the educational needs of students. I had 20-minute private lessons, at no cost, with the band director once a week from the fifth grade until I graduated. I not only learned my instrument, I became aware of how music can be an outlet for emotional expression.
Over the 40-plus years since making that decision about my life, I have witnessed the changes in people after they became exposed to the arts. As a private instructor, I have watched my students beam with excitement when they progress beyond their own expectations. I don’t need to go on about how an education in the arts improves cognitive abilities, scores, behavior, maturity, responsibility to others, etc. There have been countless articles and editorials devoted to reporting on scientific studies proving all of this. I can write about observing how a person changes when they are exposed to something beautiful and wonderful.
Our society is struggling; we have way too many children who are lost and whose souls are empty. I see a number of them every time I travel about the city: souls that need an outlet to express their emotions. But they haven’t learned a constructive way to do that and therefore sometimes turn to destructive ways.
As a society we cannot turn our backs on the children, and we must offer them the best education we can. Without an education none of you would even be reading this; and we must remember the most important aspect of our lives is education.
This also includes an education in the arts, because we either strive to maintain and grow our culture or we become a dead society.
Vincent Osborn is the program notes writer and assistant principal bassist for the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra and performs in a number of other ensembles throughout the Northland.